The “Right environment”
The blame starts with systemic failure across the board. The caveat is lamenting on missed targets is the convenient assumption that they would have played that well on the South Side.
The Chicago Tribune’s Colleen Kane left us with this after Ventura remained in the dugout following an underwhelming 2015 campaign:
"In an announcement controversial among some fans disgruntled after another failed year, Sox general manager Rick Hahn cited Ventura’s communication skills and handling of his players as reasons for bringing him back during a meeting with the media Friday in the U.S. Cellular Field press box. While also acknowledging a need for tactical improvement, Hahn said the organization believes Ventura capable of making the changes needed to win."
In an argument on managerial value, even if you believe tactical decisions are negligible, there’s a whole other dimension to the job.
Ventura is a margin assassin. People often classify him as apathetic because of his nonchalant dugout demeanor, or lack of tangible fire. The way he deploys players and match-ups does all the talking.
It’s not hard to extrapolate apathy from his post-game comments. He often defends moves by saying the outcome was written in stone either way.
Either a true lack of feel or just ambivalence about taking the time to seriously consider deployment based on reverse splits, the hot hand, defensive profile, tendencies, or high leverage capacity.
Baseball is a game filled with nuances. Ventura hitting Jimmy Rollins second or playing Avisail Garcia in right field while the better defensive option erodes on the bench is beyond mind-boggling.
Managers don’t swing the bat or throw a pitch. It’s irresponsible to say they don’t have control over placing players in a position that’s best tailored to their strengths.
Placing the onus on Ventura is a lazy narrative. It’s an equally lazy narrative to claim the roster is poorly constructed. Its often said the projection systems weren’t bullish on the White Sox.
That’s a wild misconception. USA Today’s more crapshoot approach had the White Sox winning 90 games, while the analytically fueled ZiPs projections saw an 84-win team.
Eighty-four wins was a reasonable midpoint for this team. There’s often an expectation that the total can deviate by six or seven wins. A 90-win season was just as possible as another mediocre one.
These standard deviations are heavily reliant on the marginal facets of the game, which often fall on in-game tactics or the general culture of a ball club.
Ventura was admittedly poor tactically, but the front office liked the environment he created, one that was said to maximize the roster’s abilities.
“Maximize” has taken the shape of its antonym.
Next: Incubator for Underperformance